To those who tell me they “also write”, I say, “I only write”

To be clear, this brief video is my way of mocking my profession

As a writer, even an aspiring one like me, one realizes quickly that one has no real world skills.That realization is reinforced frequently when one meets an inhabitant of the real world who says, “I also write.” To which, I offer a feeble comeback saying, “I only write.”

I couldn’t manage the cash counter of a gas station, for instance. I mean I could but within a couple of hours that gas station would be out of business because I would have sold gas at a nickel a gallon. Also, I would let the customers know that the sushi in the freezer next to the entrance is actually single ply toilet paper.

To most people who do not write for a living, writing is an adjunct profession. It is in the also-ran category. Writing has become a devalued craft for those who have done only that. In recent years, one has observed the phenomenon of professionals successful in other non-related professions such as medicine, management and information technology becoming hugely successful writers. Many of them come with an Ivy League education from Harvard and Yale as if to rub it in for roughnecks with tattered collars and frayed nerves like me.

Consider the case of Sheryl Sandberg, the chief operating officer (COO) of Facebook, for example. Her book ‘Lean In’ has gained so much traction across media lines – print, broadcast and online. People are going to the extent of saying that the book has the potential to redefine the entire feminist movement. There is almost no chance that I will read the book but I am sure it has all the merit people say it has. However, one can be pretty sure that the amount of attention it is getting is as much because of who she is as because of what it contains. What if I had written exactly the same book?

For me personally, half a dozen half written novels and three fully conceived, written, shot, edited and completed movies (in my mind) later, I have to wonder about my career in the creative arts. At this stage it feels like the United States military in Afghanistan. Perhaps I should declare victory and get out.

The problem is get out and go where? And do what? As I said one has no real world skills. It is extraordinary that one has managed to get by as long as one has without anyone getting wise to it. Journalism is not an essential profession in the way people instinctively understand essential professions. You do need a doctor or a plumber or a barber or an electrician or a policeman or a carpenter or a roofer or even a hooker. These professions provide real services.  You don’t really need a journalist or, by extension, a writer. I cannot ever envision a world where anyone would have to urgently call a journalist or a writer. “I cannot construct a sentence. Can you come right away?” is not the kind of call that anyone is ever going to make. The most one is likely to hear is, “I also write.” Who is going to tell a plumber or a hooker, “I also plumb” or “I also hook”?

The problem with writing is it is a craft that is easily aspired to as long as you don’t have to actually do it or do it for a living. It is an “I also write in my spare time,” profession. I have met people who genuinely think that being able to write is being able to type. I have been asked my typing speed. One man, flaunting his knowledge of the lingo, asked me what my WPM was. That would be words per minute.  Such people think that the only thing that is standing between them and literary greatness is their lack of facility with the keyboard. To such people, I quickly offer my services as a keyboardist par excellence. (See the video above at the end for evidence).


About chutiumsulfate

South Asians can infer from my name what I am. View all posts by chutiumsulfate

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